Writing an ABC book has its challenges, as the end of the book may involve a xylophone, yogurt and a zebra; Kafka’s story is refreshingly unarbitrary.
Fortunately, the author had to work with only one letter of the alphabet, the Hebrew letter Alef. The book presents two back-to-back stories about a father and a mother, Abba and Ima in Hebrew, both of which begin with Alef, as do all the Hebrew words that follow. (Each word appears three times: in Hebrew characters, Romanized Hebrew and English.) Each story follows the family from morning till night. The one focusing on Ima begins with light (or) shining through the window and ends with a big meal (aruchah) after dark. Even the odder word choices are appropriate and can be strangely moving. Nose (af) shows up when the mother rubs noses with her son at bedtime. And happiness (osher) is represented by toys strewn all over the floor and the furniture. After children read about Abba (or Ima), they then flip the book over for the other story. The word choices mostly avoid stereotypes, but it’s too bad that only Abba gets to leave the house; Ima is busy cooking. Basaluzzo’s brightly colored illustrations are charming without being sentimental.
How fortuitous that the last three words all start with Alef; they are: “Ani ohev otchah! I love you!” (Picture book. 2-6)